Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Moodhurai”

Moodhurai – 26

If one compares a Ruler and a flawless Scholar,
the Scholar is regarded higher than the Ruler –
Ruler is not regarded high outside the country he rules,
Scholar is regarded high wherever he goes.

மன்னனு மாசறக் கற்றோனுஞ் சீர்தூக்கின்
மன்னனிற் கற்றோன் சிறப்புடையன்-மன்னற்குத்
தன்தேச மல்லாற் சிறப்பில்லை கற்றோற்குச்
சென்றஇட மெல்லாம் சிறப்பு.

This poem by Avvayar  (the 3rd) categorically states that a scholar / poet is to be valued more than a ruler. One has to appreciate the temerity of the poet to make such statements in a monarchy.

Moodhurai – 17

Those who vanish at the sign of distress,
like birds that abandon a dry pond, aren’t kin;
those who stay back and suffer with us,
like water lilies in that pond, they’re kin.

அற்ற குளத்தின் அறுநீர்ப் பறவைபோல்
உற்றுழித் தீர்வார் உறவல்லர்-அக்குளத்திற்
கொட்டியும் ஆம்பலும் நெய்தலும் போலவே
ஒட்டி யுறுவார் உறவு.

Poet Avvayar (the 12th century one), in Moodhurai (literal meaning – Elder’s words) defines who are our real kith and kin. Those who abandon us at the first sign of distress aren’t our kin. They are like birds that abandon a pond once it dries up. Those who stay with us and share  our suffering, like flowers and weeds in that pond, are our real kin.

There are three types of water lilies mentioned in the verse. கொட்டி, ஆம்பல், நெய்தல் – I could not identify their English names. So used generic ‘water lilies’.

Moodhurai – 14

Seeing a peacock spread its plume and dance,
a turkey thinks itself to be alike, spreads
its ugly feathers and dances – like that
is a verse learned by the unschooled.

கான மயிலாடக் கண்டிருந்த வான்கோழி
தானு மதுவாகப் பாவித்துத்-தானுந்தன்
பொல்லாச் சிறகைவிரித் தாடினாற் போலுமே
கல்லாதான் கற்ற கவி.

This is a poem by Avvayar in Moodhurai (மூதுரை) , literally meaning “Old advice”. It is a collection of 30 poems, written around 12th Century AD.

An unschooled person may memorize a verse by hearing it from scholars. However he will not know its meaning or nuances. If he tries to act learned based on this, it is like a turkey thinking itself to be a beautiful peacock, spreading its ugly feathers and dancing. It is not possible to imitate a scholar. If one tries to, it will look ungainly.

“Spread its plume” is implied in the original. I have made it explicit in translation.

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